On Education & Encouragement
We have two dominant topics in Go Pro this month: the upcoming NIGP Forum in St. Louis and how government procurement professionals are responding to the recession. At first pass, these topics may seem to be unrelated, but a closer look demonstrates that they are quite complementary.
One of the effects of the recession is having to do more work with fewer employees. Sadly, the reality of layoffs is all too familiar in government agencies around the country. Even in situations where outright layoffs can be avoided, other strategies such as hiring freezes and offering early retirement are ensuring that there are not as many people left to do the job. And as our article, “Working Harder to Spend Less,” suggests, the “job” (broadly speaking) is becoming more complex and challenging in response to the recession. Early retirement makes it more likely the most experienced (and probably best-trained) employees will be among those going out the door, leaving the less well-trained (more affordably salaried) workers left to pick up the slack. These typically younger workers may be near the start of their careers and therefore in a better position to benefit from the professional development opportunities our industry offers. More to the point, their jobs require them to have the best skills and capabilities in a “leaner” staff structure, so their employers critically need them to develop professionally.
Which brings us to the NIGP Forum in St. Louis, the yearly gathering that offers four days of intensive professional training, networking activities, product exhibits and knowledge-sharing. In short, it is a perfect opportunity to enable procurement employees to grow professionally, to expand their experiences and even to work toward certifications that will make them more valuable to their employers and to the procurement workforce in general. (See more about the NIGP Forum in “NIGP’s 2009 Forum Opens the Gateway to Excellence.”)
One of the casualties of the recession has been travel funds, but scrimping on training and professional development when knowledge is most critical to our industry seems to me to be at best shortsighted and at worst irresponsible. Encouraging employees to become better procurement professionals is not a “warm and fuzzy” perk or a reward for hard work that can go to the wayside when times get tough. Education is vital to our profession in good times and, maybe even more importantly, in bad times. The economic benefits of professional development are obvious. Historically, educational expenses have more than paid for themselves in the long run by raising the stature of the professional and boosting the abilities — and efficiencies — of procurement professionals everywhere. Just ask anyone who has ever attended the NIGP Forum (or other educational opportunities from the NIGP — see a current listing in this issue).
“Nine-tenths of education is encouragement,” said Anatole France, a French poet and author. Amid the economic malaise engulfing our country — and our profession — there is no better time for more of both.